Voice of Sport

Gasigwa’s death in Kigali shocks Kenya tennis fraternity

The Rwanda No. 1 was a frequent top contender in events held in Nairobi and Mombasa including the Kenya Open and ITF [International Tennis Federation] sponsored money events


NEWS of the sudden death of Rwanda men’s tennis champion Jean-Claude Gasigwa was received with shock in Kenya where the player was well known.

Gasigwa, the Rwanda No. 1 was a frequent top contender in events held in Kenya including the Kenya Open and ITF [International Tennis Federation] sponsored money events.

Collapsed

Rwanda’s “The New Times” daily newspaper in its early online edition had reported that Gasigwa collapsed and died on the spot on Thursday morning at Cercle Sportif de Kigali in Rugunga.

According to Cercle Sportif de Kigali officials, the 31-year-old was found dead by his colleagues at 10:10 am local time in a football field where he is said to have been jogging on his own.

Doctors’ report

The cause of his death was still unknown. His body was taken to Police Hospital in Kacyiru for postmortem.

Unconfirmed initial reports indicate that Gasigwa could have died of cardiac arrest, but that will have to be confirmed by the doctors’ report after the postmortem.

Lycie Hamissi, a coach at Cercle Sportif de Kigali, said the top seed did not have any past record of heart problems and that everyone is shocked by the news of his death.

Davis Cup

The 31-year-old was an amateur player taking part in the ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals] second-tier competition known as Challengers Pro Circuit. He latest and highest ranking ever was 1,665.

He was the lead player in Rwanda’s Davis Cup team alongside another senior player, Dieu-Donne Habiyambere and juniors Hamisi Gatete and Mubaraka Harerimana.

Gasigwa had dominated Rwandan tennis for the past five years since the departure in 2007 of compatriots Eric Hagerimana and Jean Paul Nshimiyimana to the United States.

Gasigwa won several titles in the region including the Kenya Open (2008), Tanzania Open (2011), Uganda open 2009, 2012 and 2013.

He was a regular at Nairobi Club where the annual Kenya Open is traditionally held.

Gasigwa started playing tennis in 1999 after he was adopted following the death of his parents in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In 2003 he was called up to the senior team at the age of 20 and his first major tournament was the Davis Cup of that year in Mombasa.

Since then he remained on the Rwandan team featuring in international events like the Davies Cup, Kenyan Open and ITF money circuit.

Only last June, Gasigwa played in the Kenya Open. Kenya’s top tennis player Ismael Changawa who last met him when they played at the Uganda Open last year was shocked by the sudden demise of his ‘best friend in tennis’.

“It is unbelievable that Gasigwa is gone. It is a big loss for tennis in the region. He was a great player, a fighter and was doing great in his game. I will miss him, he was my best friend in tennis,” Changaywa  said. He was never drawn against the Rwandan in the numerous events they both featured.

Gasigwa returned to Nairobi last year seeking the elusive Kenya Open title but was stopped by Ugandan Duncan Mugabe in the semi-final 2-6,3-6.

In 2013 he had lost to the Ugandan player in the men’s final.

–  Additional reporting by ‘The New Times’ [Rwanda] and ‘Daily Nation’